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Tokyo stocks finish in positive territory

Tokyo stocks finished slightly higher Thursday as the yen's climb faltered after a Japanese minister reportedly said his comments about the unit being too weak had been "misinterpreted".

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index gained 0.09 percent, or 9.20 points, to 10,609.64, erasing afternoon losses, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares closed 0.26 percent, or 2.35 points, higher at 890.46.

Shares in Japan's top two airlines fell earlier in the session but ended mixed after they grounded all their Boeing Dreamliner aircraft over safety fears, a development that hurt some of the plane's top Japanese suppliers.

Both indexes had sunk into negative territory after the lunch break with the Nikkei off about 1.4 percent in early afternoon trade as the yen staged a sharp rally against the dollar and euro.

A strong yen generally weighs on Tokyo's equity market as it makes the nation's exporters less competitive overseas while a weakening yen tends to lift manufacturers' shares.

But the yen's rally proved short-lived, helping the stock market cast off losses before the closing bell as Japan's economic revitalisation minister said his comments about the yen's fast decline were taken out of context.

"My view is that the currency market is still in a phase of correcting from excessive yen strength," Akira Amari told The Wall Street Journal. "That was the case back then, and is the case now."

On Tuesday, the yen rebounded from almost 90 on the dollar after Amari said the rapid fall could hit consumers by making imported goods more expensive. In late 2011, the yen hit a record high around 75 against the greenback.

"Obviously, an excessively weak yen will be reflected in import prices," Amari told a regular Tokyo press briefing.

"It might help exports, but it could also have negative effects on the lives of the public."

In currency trading, the dollar bought 88.57 yen from 88.25 yen in Tokyo earlier Thursday and 88.37 yen in New York Wednesday afternoon.

The euro also gained at 117.74 yen, from 117.20 yen in the morning and 117.42 yen the previous day.

In stock trading, All Nippon Airways (ANA) ended 0.54 percent lower at 181 yen, while Japan Airlines (JAL) was up 0.27 percent at 3,685 yen after saying they would stop flying the Boeing 787 following a number of safety scares.

ANA was forced into an emergency landing on Wednesday, which came just days after news of fuel leaks and a fire on other planes.

The grounding in Japan led regulators in the United States, India and Chile to ground all the Dreamliners in their countries over safety concerns about the plane's batteries.

Dreamliner suppliers also took a hit, with battery maker GS Yuasa tumbling 4.98 percent to 305 yen and Toray Industries, which supplies lightweight carbon fibre materials, falling 1.96 percent to 500 yen.

Among other exporters, Sony was up 5.67 percent at 1,024 yen after Goldman Sachs upped its recommendation on the stock to neutral from sell, while Toyota Motor firmed 1.32 percent to 4,210 yen.

Sharp jumped 7.30 percent to 338 yen following a Nikkei business daily report that the company is in the final stages of talks with Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group over a tie-up in TVs.